frederico garcía lorca on the wall street crash, and more from his “poet in new york”

“I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market crash, where they lost several million dollars, a rabble of dead money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness…. I felt something like a divine urge to bombard that whole canyon of shadow, where ambulances collected suicides whose hands were full of rings.”

 

—Frederico García Lorca

 

 

From "A Poet in New York," Lecture, March 1932, Madrid. Published in Poet in New York (1940, translated 1988).

 

 

From Part III of Poet in New York:

 

 

            III
Streets of Dream

 

 

Death of Death

 

The mask. Look at the mask!
See it come to New York out of Africa!

The pepper trees went away,
and the little buds of phosphorus.
The camels with torn flesh went away
and the valleys of light that the swan raised on its beak.

It was the time of dry things,
wheat in the eye, and the run-over cat,
the time of rusting iron on great bridges,
and the definitive silence of cork.

It was the great reunion of dead animals,
transfixed by the swords of light;
the eternal delight of the ashen-footed hippo
and the gazelle with a dried flower in her throat.

In the withered solitude, no waves,
the bruised mask danced.
One half of the world was of sand,
the other, sleeping sun and mercury.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Sand, alligator, fear above New York!
……………………………..*
Lime gorges imprisoned an empty sky,
you heard the voice of those who died beneath the guano.
A sky cleansed and pure, like itself,
with the down and sharp-edged iris of its invisible
……………………………..mountains,

finished with the lightest tendrils of song
and fled to the packed deluge of sap,
acrosss the calm of the last silhouettes,
lifting bits of mirror with its tail.

When the Chinaman wept on the roof
without discovering the nakedness of woman,
and the bank director looked at the pressure gauge
that measures the cruel silence of money,
the mask reached Wall Street.

It’s not a strange place for the dance,
this columbarium that turns the eyes yellow.
From the sphinx to the treasure-chest goes a taut thread
through the hearts of working-class children.
The primitive impulse and mechanical impulse
dance in frenzy, unaware of the original light.
For if the wheel forgets its formula
it can sing with the horse herds, naked;
and if a flame devours the frozen plans
heaven must flee before the noise of broken windows.

I say, it’s not a strange place for the dance.
The mask will dance between columns of blood and of
……………………………..numbers,
between hurricanes of gold and the groans of laid-off
……………………………..workers
who will howl, dark night, for your time without lights.
Oh, savage North America! Shameless and savage!
sprawled on the frontier of snow.

The mask. Look at the mask!
What a wave of filth and glow-worms on New York!

On the terrace I fought with the moon.
Swarms of windows pierced a thigh of the night.
The sweet cows of heaven drank from my eyes.
And the breezes of great oars
hit the ash-coloured glass of Broadway.

The drop of blood sought the light in the yolk of a star
to fake a dead apple seed.
A wind of the plain, pushed by shepherds, quivered
with the fear of a shell-less mollusc.

But the dead do not dance,
I am sure.
The dead are shrunken, gnawing their own fingers.

It’s the others who dance, with the mask and with its
……………………………..guitar.
The others, those drunk on silver, the cold men
those who sleep in the crossing of thighs and hard flames,
who seek the worm in a landscape of stairways,
those who drink in the bank a dead girl’s tears
or eat small pyramids of dawn on the corners.

The Pope must not dance!
No, not the Pope!
Nor the King
nor the millionaire with blue teeth
nor the cathedral’s fagged dancers,
nor builders, nor emeralds, nor madmen, nor sodomites.
Only this mask,
this mask of old scarlet fever,
only this mask!

Now the cobras will hiss on the topmost floors,
the nettles shake patios and terraces,
the Stock Exchange be turned into a pyramid of moss,
the lianas come after the rifles
and very soon, very soon, very soon now,
Alas, Wall Street!

The mask. Look at the mask!
How it spits the jungle’s venom
through New York’s imperfect pain!

 

 

Landscape of the Vomiting Crowd (Twilight at Coney Island)

 

The fat lady came out first,

tearing out roots and moistening drumskins.

The fat lady

who turns dying octopuses inside out.

The fat lady, the moon’s antagonist,

was running through the streets and deserted buildings

and leaving tiny skulls of pigeons in the corners

and stirring up the furies of the last centuries’ feasts

and summoning the demon of bread through the sky’s clean-swept hills

and filtering a longing for light into subterranean tunnels.

The graveyards, yes the graveyards

and the sorrow of the kitchens buried in sand,

the dead, pheasants and apples of another era,

pushing it into our throat.

 

There were murmuring from the jungle of vomit

with the empty women, with hot wax children,

with fermented trees and tireless waiters

who serve platters of salt beneath harps of saliva.

There’s no other way, my son, vomit! There’s no other way.

It’s not the vomit of hussars on the breasts of their whores,

nor the vomit of cats that inadvertently swallowed frogs,

but the dead who scratch with clay hands

on flint gates where clouds and desserts decay.

 

The fat lady came first

with the crowds from the ships, taverns, and parks.

Vomit was delicately shaking its drums

among a few little girls of blood

who were begging the moon for protection.

Who could imagine my sadness?

The look on my face was mine, but now isn’t me,

the naked look on my face, trembling for alcohol

and launching incredible ships

through the anemones of the piers.

I protect myself with this look

that flows from waves where no dawn would go,

I, poet without arms, lost

in the vomiting multitude,

with no effusive horse to shear

the thick moss from my temples.

 

The fat lady went first

and the crowds kept looking for pharmacies

where the bitter tropics could be found.

Only when a flag went up and the first dogs arrived

did the entire city rush to the railings of the boardwalk.

 

 

Landscape of the Urinating Crowd (Nocturne at Battery Place)

 

The men kept to themselves:
they were waiting for the swiftness of the last cyclists.
The women kept to themselves:
they were expecting the death of a boy on a Japanese schooner.
They all kept to themselves-
dreaming of the open beaks of dying birds,
the sharp parasol that punctures
a recently flattened toad,
beneath silence with a thousand ears
and tiny mouths of water
in the canyons that resist
the violent attack on the moon.
The boy on the schooner was crying and hearts were breaking
in anguish for the witness and vigilance of all things,
and because of the sky blue ground of black footprints,
obscure names, saliva, and chrome radios were still crying.
It doesn’t matter if the boy grows silent when stuck with the last pin,
or if the breeze is defeated in cupped cotton flowers,
because there is a world of death whose perpetual sailors will appear in the arches and
freeze you from behind the trees.
It’s useless to look for the bend
where night loses its way
and to wait in ambush for a silence that has no
torn clothes, no shells, and no tears,
because even the tiny banquet of a spider
is enough to upset the entire equilibrium of the sky.
There is no cure for the moaning from a Japanese schooner,
nor for those shadowy people who stumble on the curbs.
The countryside bites its own tail in order to gather a bunch of roots
and a ball of yarn looks anxiously in the grass for unrealized longitude.
The Moon! The police. The foghorns of the ocean liners!
Facades of urine, of smoke, anemones, rubber gloves.
Everything is shattered in the night
that spread its legs on the terraces.
Everything is shatter in the tepid faucets
of a terrible silent fountain.
Oh, crowds! Loose women! Soldiers!
We will have to journey through the eyes of idiots,
open country where the docile cobras, coiled like wire, hiss,
landscapes full of graves that yield the freshest apples,
so that uncontrollable light will arrive
to frighten the rich behind their magnifying glasses-
the odor of a single corpse from the double source of lily and rat-
and so that fire will consume those crowds still able to piss around a moan
or on the crystals in which each inimitable wave is understood.

 

 

Murder (Two Voices at Dawn on Riverside Drive)

 

“How did it happen?”
“A cut on the cheek.”
That’s all!
A nail that presses the stem.
A pin that dives in
until it finds the roots of the scream.
And the sea stops moving.
“How did it happen?”
“Just like that.”
“Stop it! Like that?”
“Yes.”
The heart came out on its own.
“Oh my!”

 

 

Christmas on the Hudson

 

This gray sponge:
this sea-farer, lately beheaded!
This mighty river.
This wind from the shadowy zenith.
And this cutting-edge, love, this cutting edge!
Four sailors wrestled a planet,
a world of discernible angles,
an uncrossable world, save by horses.
One sailor, one hundred, one thousand,
wrestling the critical speeds of a planet,
and unaware, all of them,
that the world was alone in the sky.

 

 

City Without Sleep (Nocturne of the Brooklyn Bridge)

 

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
are waiting,
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

 

 

Blind Panorama of New York

If it is not the birds
covered with ash,
if it is not groans that beat on the windows during the wedding,
it will be the delicate creatures of the air
that flow with new blood in perpetual darkness.
But no, it is not the birds.
Because the birds will soon become oxen.
With the moon’s help they can become white rocks
and are always wounded boys
before the judges lift the cloth.

All know of the sorrow intertwined with death,
but true sorrow is not found in the spirit.
Nor in the air, nor in our lives,
nor in terraces teeming with smoke.
True sorrow that keeps things awake
is a tiny but incessant burn
in the innocent eyes of other systems.

An abandoned suit weighs so much on men
that sometimes the sky groups them into unruly mobs;
and those who die giving birth know in the final hour
that all rumor will be stone and all tracks beaten.
We do not recognize that thought has ghettoes
where the philosopher is devoured by Chinese and caterpillars
and some foolish children in kitchens found
little swallows with crutches
who knew how to speak the word love.

No, it is not the birds.
It is not a bird that expresses the crowd frenzy of a lake,
or the urge for murder that presses on us at each moment,
or the metallic hum of suicide that revives us at each dawn.
It is a capsule of air where the whole world pains us,
it is a small bright space in the mad unity of the light,
an indefinable ladder where clouds and roses forget,
the Chinese clamor that bustles in the disembarking of the blood.
I lost myself many times
searching for the burn that keeps things awake
and I only found sailors cast onto the railings
and little creatures of the sky buried under the snow.
But true sorrow was in other places
where crystallized fish were dying in trunks;
places for ancient untouched statues under foreign skies
and for the tender intimacy of volcanoes.

There is no sorrow in the voice. Only teeth exist,
but the teeth will stay quiet, isolated by black satin.
There is no sorrow in the voice. Here only the earth exists.
The earth with its timeless gates
that lead to the blush of fruit.

 

Dawn

 

The New York dawn has
four columns of mud
and a hurricane of black pigeons
splashing in fetid waters.
The New York dawn groans
along vast stairs
searching between the edges
for spikenards of sketched anguish.
The dawn arrives and nobody receives it in the mouth
because tomorrow and hope are not possible there:
sometimes furious swarms of coins
drill and devour abandoned children.
The first to get out know in their bones:
they know they are headed into the mud of numbers and laws,
to artless games, to fruitless labors.
The light is buried under chains and noise
in a shameless challenge of rootless science.
Through the boroughs people hesitate sleepless
as if they have emerged from a shipwreck of blood.

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